The Five Common Paths To Becoming A Dog Walker or Pet Sitter
Are you wondering how to become a professional dog walker or pet sitter? Perhaps you want to know how to become a certified dog walker?
The journey might look a little different for each individual, but in general there are five most common paths to a career of caring for pets for a living.
Here they are:
- Get a job at a local Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Agency
- Freelance on Rover or Wag
- Become a Solo Sitter
- Start a Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Agency
- Buy a Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Agency
We will cover each path in more detail below, this way you can figure out what path best suits your goals.
1.) How to Get a Job At A Local Pet Sitting & Dog Walking Agency
Getting a job at a local pet sitting or dog walking company is one of the best ways to get started in the industry.
Pet sitting and dog walking agencies are almost always hiring, but you will need to know what qualifications you need to be a dog walker, otherwise the process of getting hired can be competitive.
The best way to make sure you get hired is to boost your resume or application with experience and qualifications that are directly relevant to pet sitting and dog walking.
While running my pet sitting and dog walking company, I personally looked over thousands of pet sitters’ applications and resumes. Here is a list of the relevant experience and qualifications which most often result in someone being hired and turning out to be a great pet sitter or dog walker:
- Great problem solving skills
- Detail oriented and can follow detailed instructions
- Has previous professional / career experience
- Has experience on a farm, kennel, shelter, or other pet related experience
- Is someone who can be trusted to work independently
- Has pet sitting or dog walking certification
- Has open availability to dog walk and pet sit anytime needed
Getting Certified Will Help You Become a Successful Professional Pet Sitter and Dog Walker
No matter what path you take to your career in pet care, being trained and becoming certified will significantly increase your chances of being successful as a pet sitter or dog walker.
The number one challenge for clients and pet sitting agencies alike is finding and hiring qualified, trusted, pet sitters.
Taking a good certification course, such as the one developed by PetSitterCourse.com will guide you through everything you need to be confident you are taking care of your client’s pets and home in the best way possible.
2.) Freelancing On Rover or Wag
Many sitters get started by joining an app like Rover or Wag. This is the easiest way to get started. These platforms are beneficial because they offer a way to get started without having to start your own company.
You can get clients from the Rover, Wag, Care.com or Bark, or Nextdoor.
Sometimes these platforms get a bit of a bad rap because of the lack of quality control and the lack of support they offer their sitters. Again, you will be miles ahead of the competition if you get certified before offering service through an app.
Once certified, you will go into the industry with a framework of knowledge you can build on to keep pets safe while they are in your care. You will have confidence knowing that you are doing the job the right way.
3.) Become A Solo Sitter
Solo sitters are individuals who have their own business entity, such as an LLC. They have a website to market their services, and may also find new clients and leads from places like care.com, Bark, or Nextdoor.
Solo sitters generally have their own pet sitting insurance and are committed to offering excellent pet care.
Solo sitting has many benefits. Solo sitters do not need to manage a team. There is much less overhead in terms of technology and systems needed. Plus, you can focus on the part of the business that is the most fun: taking care of pets!
Solo sitters can also make more cash from each visit because they enjoy lower overhead than an agency model.
If you are only looking to work as a pet sitter for a few years before moving on to something else, building a solo sitter business might be a good option for you. Solo sitting is also a good option for individuals who are only looking to take on a few pet sitting clients and handle a few regular dog walking clients. However, the fewer clients you take on, the lower your income will be.
For solo sitters who plan to continue their work long term and are planning to take on enough clients to reach a full time salary – a solo sitter’s business can very quickly turn into a 7-day per week job. Sadly, many full time solo sitters find themselves getting burnt out after 2-3 years.
For solo sitters who are looking to work full time in the industry for the long run, it’s strongly recommend you consider moving to an agency model to prevent burnout.
4.) Start a Dog Walking or Pet Sitting Agency
If you are serious about starting a dog walking business, want to earn a full time salary, and plan to build a business that will last for the long term – consider building your company into a dog walking and pet sitting agency.
The main difference between a pet sitting and dog walking agency and a solo sitter is that a pet sitting agency has a team of staff that helps with the visits and has at least one manager who helps with office admin tasks, hiring, scheduling, and more.
If you plan on growing your company into a pet sitting agency, it’s recommended that you hire and build your team as soon as possible – even if you only hire someone to help 5-10 hours per week to give you some time off every week.
There are many highly qualified individuals looking to work just a few hours per week and they will give you the much needed time off you deserve as a business owner.
When hiring, look for writers, artists, people with a flexible side hustle such as freelancing, and other creative individuals (with a track record of previous career experience and reliability) who would enjoy working with pets in between their creative work.
Traditionally hiring staff is the hardest part of starting a pet sitting business. However, it’s now made simple when you use the team training page and hiring course offered by PetSitterCourse.com. You will save years of frustration by using the following two tools:
Building a team will cause you to have more overhead than a solo sitter, but has the long-term advantage of having staff to help spread out the workload out, for what would otherwise certainly be a 7-day per week job.
Having staff also means you have backup and support from your team in the event that you need a sick day, time off, a vacation, or even when you are just running behind with a full schedule of visits.
You also tend to get better clients when you follow the agency model because the best clients understand it is better to hire a company with a team rather than a solo sitter.
The best clients know that if a solo sitter has an emergency that prevents them from being able to complete their visits, the client will be left scrambling for pet care at the last minute. When a client hires a company with a team, the team steps in to make sure the client is covered.
Pet sitters who follow the agency model can consistently provide in-home pet care for hundreds or even thousands of pets per year. This model also allows business owners to grow their company year after year in a sustainable way.
Check out the following article from PetSitterCourse.com for more information about how to start a dog walking agency:
5.) Buy A Pet Sitting Company
For individuals who either already have experience in business, or prefer to buy a stable system rather than building an entire company from scratch, buying an established business could be the right path for you.
A pet sitting company will usually cost 2-3 times the owner’s salary if the owner’s take home pay is over 100K per year. If the owner’s take home pay is less than 60K per year, you should expect the cost of the company to be 1 times the owner’s salary or less.
If you plan to buy a business, keep in mind that you do not need to come up with the full price of the business yourself. Small Business Administration loans are available to help entrepreneurs purchase businesses they believe they can grow. Additionally, the previous owner will generally carry between 10-20% of the note themselves, as part of good will. This means the previous owner will finance 10-20% of the purchase price, and the bank will cover 80-90%.
The main thing to keep in mind when buying a business is to look for ways that you, with your unique skills, talents, and strengths, can grow or operate the company more effectively than the current owner. This is how you find hidden value within the company, and it makes your purchase a much better deal.
How to Find Business That Are For Sale
There are professional business brokers who help facilitate the complex transaction of a business sale. If you are interested in seeing what might be available for sale, you can call or email a business broker in your area to express interest in buying a pet sitting or dog walking company.
Business brokers often have a large number of businesses in their network. If a buyer expresses interest in a certain industry, a broker can reach out to their network of business owners to see if there is any interest in selling at that time.
Also, many business owners will sell the company on their own, without a business broker. In a “For Sale by Owner” transaction, you will work with the business owner and a lawyer who will write up a purchase agreement and closing documents. Lawyer’s fees tend to be between $2500 – $3500 US for this type of sale where a business broker’s fee is often $15-30K minimum. Look for companies that are for sale by the owner on bizbuysell.com
Professional pet sitting and dog walking is a rewarding career. However, there are unique challenges you will need to overcome if decide to make pet sitting and dog walling your full time income. Luckily there are many resources available to new pet sitters and dog walkers. Be sure to check out the following resources to ensure your career in pet care is successful.
- 32 Helpful Resources for Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Business Owners
- Business and Policy Resource Library
- Certification for Professional Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters